It will not have escaped your notice that Easter Day falls on 1st April this year – April Fools Day. One media outlet is reporting that, because of the clash of dates, the Pope has decreed April Fools Day to be cancelled for 2018. Instead there will be two April Fools Days in 2019 – a claim which sounds very suspect to me (April Fool anyone?)!
Assuming that this is the case, I suggest there is something to be said about how the sharing of these two days is significant. It doesn’t happen very often (the last time they coincided was in 1956!) so how might we make the connection between Easter Day and April Fools Day?
Well, on the morning of that first Easter Day, when the disciples discovered that the tomb in which Jesus had been buried just three days previously was now empty, their first thoughts must have been that they were somehow being tricked. Was this some kind of elaborate and sick practical joke? Had someone hidden the body, only to suddenly appear shouting ‘April Fool!’? Just what was going on?
The Gospels tell us, in various ways, that the risen Jesus appears to his disciples, yet they don’t recognise him; Mary Magdalene thought he was the gardener until he spoke to her; Thomas would not believe until he saw and experienced the risen Christ for himself and Jesus even accuses the disciples of foolishness for their blindness and inability to recognise him as he walked alongside them on the road to Emmaus.
The Gospel accounts of the resurrection are written in such a way as to imply the ridiculousness of the suggestion that Jesus might just have risen from the dead, but the joke is very much on the disciples as they come to know the truth and experience the newly risen Christ in their lives.
As we prepare to celebrate Easter on April Fools Day this year, there will be many who will dismiss us as fools for putting our faith in an unseen God and for wasting our time worshipping and giving thanks for an event from long ago for which there is no hard and fast evidence. Is the joke really on us? Well maybe it is, but two-thousand years of Christian tradition, and the experience of those who continue to bear witness to the presence of the risen Christ in their lives would suggest otherwise. As Christians we believe that the resurrection of Jesus shows that it is God who has the last laugh as the power of sin and death is defeated. So, let us be Fools for Christ’s sake as we, on Easter Day, proclaim him to be risen from the dead and Lord of our lives.
In the words of St Paul – ‘For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’. 1 Cor 1: 18
May I wish you all a very Happy Easter!